How much is too much?

A Toronto Star editorial calls for a public debate on “the ethical dilemma of paying for an exorbitantly priced drug for rare diseases while also ensuring that the government can afford the drugs used by millions of other Ontarians”. Read the origional article…

So where does the discussion begin? How do we put a price on human life?

The Star references the case of a patient with a rare disease whose life saving treatment is a drug costing $500,000 a year for life. It’s an impossible position for a politician to be in. Or is it? Over 50% of the population suffers from a chronic illness like arthritis, diabetes, lung disease, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease etc. And the cost of life saving and life altering drugs continues to escalate as the pharmaceutical technologies become more complex and sophisticated. Sounds like a merry-go-round – wondering when it’s going to stop?

Agreed, the discussion has got to start. We need to develop principled understandings so as to manage the reality of the cost of chronic illness in our society. Unfortunately, it looks like a real hot potato issue that no one really wants to touch yet. Except for opposition party politicians who will use heart-wrenching individual cases to make the government look bad. But I doubt they’ll have the courage to engage in a real dialogue. Meanwhile, The Star editorial drew zero comments. What does that say?

November 29, 2010